With the Champions League final between Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid a week away, there’s no better way to pass the time than the Europa League final between Portuguese Benfica and Spanish Sevilla.
Although the Europa League, which was known as the UEFA Cup prior to 2009, may not be as popular as the Champions League, it’s still just as important.
Benfica recently claimed its 33rd Portuguese Liga title whereas Sevilla sits in fifth place in La Liga. Sevilla, however, had claimed two Europa League Cups and is one of the most successful Europa League teams, along with Juventus, Internazionale and Liverpool.
With the Europa League title on the line, neither team netted a goal against the other throughout all 90 minutes of regulation.
Except this is a FINAL and there must be a winner!
In the rules of soccer, if both teams are scoreless after 90 minutes of game time during a final match, there must be 30 minutes of extra time, which consist of two 15-minute halves. If neither team scores, the winner will be decided on penalties.
And of course, Sevilla and Benfica remained scoreless at the end of extra time, and each received five penalty shots. Whoever converted the most penalty kicks would win.
This is the stage that puts the most pressure on a player, who can either demonstrate just how clutch he is or fail miserably and be labeled as one who lost the game.
Unfortunately for Benfica, Sevilla emerged on top to claim its third Europa League title, scoring on four of five penalty kicks while Benfica could only muster two goals.
Benfica’s loss is the latest instance of the “Curse of Bela Guttnam.”
Guttnam coached Benfica during from 1959 to 1962 and managed to deliver back-to-back European Cups in 1961 and 1962.
In 1962, after acquiring his second European Cup with Benfica, Guttnam approached the Board of Benfica and asked for a pay rise, but was denied. Guttnam decided to leave Benfica after the rejection, stating that he felt he deserved a raise after the success he brought the club.
Upon leaving, Guttnam supposedly cursed Benfica by saying, “Not in a hundred years from now will Benfica ever be European Champion.”
It’s been 52 years and, although they have acquired Portuguese Liga titles, Benfica has now fallen short in the Europa League final on eight times.
Sevilla, on the other hand, receives the title and five million euros, not counting the cash payments it received throughout the tournament.
This year’s Europa League final also represents the last final before the UEFA awards the winner of the Europa League a spot in the following season’s Champions League, which would mean competing with the “elite clubs” in Europe.
Sevilla can be proud of its Europa League efforts, while Benfica must console themselves with its Portuguese Liga title and the cash provided to the losing side.
Next weekend, the Champions League final takes place, which will draw the season to a close. Soccer will still continue, however, as most national teams will be gearing up for the much-anticipated WORLD CUP!
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